May 30, 2013

How to Save Water (and Work) When Washing Your Car

"Laziness", CelloDad is fond of saying, "is the mother of invention". CelloDad is one of the most inventive people I have ever met. I have learned many tricks from him over the years we have been together.

One effective way to get things done is to hold back the urge to do something, but instead to simply wait until the problem goes away. This approach works particularly well for dusty cars. Is your car covered in mud, or liberally dusted in tree pollen? Take heart: if you wait long enough, a good thunderstorm will eventually visit your parking spot, the heavens will open, and torrential rain will wash away all that dirt and dust, and leave your car sparkling.

I have applied this tactic many times, to great effect, and with satisfyingly little effort.

It saves you from releasing nasty chemicals, that might lurk in your car soap or waxing finish, into the environment. And it saves a lot of water. It also saves you a lot of work of the kind that requires you to take an extra shower: more water savings.

Photo Joost J. Bakker

But once in a while you can't wait for the saving rain.

May 28, 2013

Review: 2013 Audi Q5

Audi, a relative latecomer to the SUV scene, launched the Q5 in 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis. Despite the unfortunate timing of the introduction, I regularly see Q5's on the road.

Here in the US, the Q5 is classified as a "compact SUV": poor naming. In Germany (and in France also) it is known simply as "SUV". In the Netherlands it is called a "Mid-size SUV". The Dutch logic is impeccable: after all, the Q5 is the middle of Audi's SUV range, between the Q3 and the Q7. The German splash page for the Q3 is obviously directed to younger drivers: "Developed from new demands", while the splash for the seven-seat Q7 is more sedate; "From the inventor of the quattro".

May 23, 2013

This is What I Call a Parking Garage

Here is a bicycles-only parking garage.
(And why should it not be wider than a hotel? It's full as it is.)

The sign says, "Amsterdam Loves Bikes". From the looks of it, bikes love Amsterdam, too. This is the parking garage at the central railway station with its connections to trains, buses and water transport. Bicycle parking fee: € 1.20 ($1.50) per day. Pretty steep, but hey, this is Amsterdam.

There are a few handicap-access car parking spots close to the Ibis hotel. And the general parking garage for cars is on the other side of the water from the station; rates are €55 ($70) per day. The word "punitive" comes to mind.



You may also like:
1. How the Dutch got their Bicycle Paths
2. I Made a Town Meeting Gasp


May 22, 2013

We Need a Change in Climate News

The past two weeks has seen climate change in the news, or rather, a tiny bit more than the usually pathetic coverage it gets from mainstream news outlets, considering we're talking about the future of our species.

The first noteworthy piece of climate news is that the world has reached a new and ominous milestone: the concentration of carbon dioxide has reached 400 ppm. Lisa Welp and Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institute write about this in the way scientists write: with an even, almost detached tone.

May 18, 2013

Review: is smart a smart choice?

Small is beautiful, but pehaps small is not always smart: Smart is certainly small, but is Smart actually also smart?

In case all this makes your brain itch: we're talking about the Smart citycar, or, as their website would have it, the "smart uncar" (note the uncapitalised name). At 106.1 inches (2695mm) length it's shorter by a third than the diminuitive Ford Ka. The Smart ForTwo is basically a sedan cut in half - giving a whole different slant on the word "coupé". (The Smart ForFour was longer, but is no longer in production).

It's hard to get a handle on the Smart: it's half a car, but with all four wheels. But it's still significantly larger than half a car: its 8ft 10in length would fit sideways (just) in an oversized parking spot at a mega-mall, but in most cities you still need a full parking space for it. The only places where it would have an advantage are very cramped cities like ancient Asian and European towns that were built for pedestrians.

May 17, 2013

CelloMom Voted one of Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mom Blogs

I'm excited to share that CelloMom on Cars has been voted one of the Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mom blogs! Thank you so much for your support and your vote(s): CelloMom came in tied at 25th place, so your every vote made it possible!

I am in Circle of Moms Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms - 2013!

The list, compiled by Circle of Moms, has many great blogs by moms who write about their journeys to a more healthy and sustainable life. These blogs have lots of tips and advice, and lots of humour; some bloggers host giveaways. In short, it's well worth browsing through the list.

May 13, 2013

Speed Limit on the Autobahn? - Nein!

Germany, that generally level-headed country, the one that produces some of the world's best engineers and engineered products, some of the most penetrating philosophers, some of the most forward-thinking policies on protecting the planet, went into a tail-spin at the weekend over the mere idea of imposing a speed limit on its Autobahn.

Photo by Q-ß

The hapless politician who had dared to air the idea is Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of the opposition Social Democratic party (SPD).

Remember, this is the country that is phasing out all nuclear energy by 2022. Part of their "Energiewende" (energy transition) plan is to source 35% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, ramping to 100% by 2050. Heady stuff: these people are serious about clean energy.

The German Green Party has long been a proponent of a national speed limit, for reasons of energy conservation. And the similarly environmentally friendly Traffic Club of Germany (VCD) quotes a statistic that those German highways without speed limits are the location of 70% of fatal road accidents. But inside his own party, Mr. Gabriel finds no such support: Within hours of his statement other SPD members were careful to distance themselves from him.

May 9, 2013

My World: UN's Global Survey

The UN is gathering worldwide opinions on what matters to us, the planet's citizens. The survey, called MY World, "aims to capture people's voices, priorities and views, so that global leaders can be informed as they begin the process of defining the new development agenda for the world."

The survey, which takes a few minutes to complete, allows you to choose six out of sixteen major priorities; once you're completed the survey you can see the current results displayed in a very nice interactive graphic that breaks down the responses according to gender, age, and HDI. A country's Human Development Index or HDI is a"summary index" that indicates the levels of health, education and income in that country.

May 7, 2013

My Mother's Day Wish

Actually, I've got everything I need - and more.

Let's put that way up front. I am, on the whole, pretty pampered - and very happy with what I have. So if the gift-giving portion of Mother's Day were to pass by our house, I would be completely content. If I could still wish for anything, it would not be a thing.

But if pressed, I can name a few items I'm short of, such as patience (I can be very short of that). Or courage: To face difficult things, like the way my dad and his contemporaries are aging; how fast my children are growing up; the kind of world that awaits them. Oh, and a leash for my brain: I keep misplacing it. If you have a surfeit of any of these, I would appreciate receiving some of it. It doesn't have to be for Mother's Day: any time will do.

Hm. I could always wish for World Peace.

Calligraphy by Ibrahim Abu Touq

My one practical request is one that will benefit the grocery budgets of moms everywhere, including mine: Please, please let us all reduce our energy use. We could do that by flying less, driving less, eating less meat, buying less stuff, heating or cooling our homes less - you know the drill.

May 5, 2013

Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms

This month, Circle of Moms is compiling its list of Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms.

Check out the list of great blogs! There are lots of moms who write about sustainability, a green and healthy life, simplicity and a natural lifestyle, free of toxic chemicals.

If you like CelloMom on Cars, please take a minute to vote for me, either at the list or at my profile page. Thanks in advance!

You can vote for more than one blog, and you can vote once every day (voting ends on May 16). You don't have to be a member or register at Circle of Moms in order to vote.

May 2, 2013

Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT, Hyundai i30

The popular Hyundai i30 hatchback, introduced in the US as the Elantra GT, has won several Car of the Year awards. These include such citations as "Best Family Hatch (2009, New Zealand) and "Best Family Car" (2012, Scotland).

That people everywhere look for slightly different things in a family car is apparent from a small survey of TV commercials. It also shows the various ways people try to wrap their tongues around the brand name. I don't have TV (much less Korean TV), but all of these ads can be found on demand at YouTube.